Nearly a year after The Later Years release: the story of the Barbican Centre Syd Barrett tribute footage - and how it got there.
Ed Lopez-Reyes: Simon, your footage from The Madcap’s Last Laugh, the Syd Barrett tribute concert at the Barbican Centre in 2007, made it into The Later Years box set that was released a year ago this month… What was the main reason you went to the show: Roger Waters was not originally on the bill, right? Were you there for specific acts?
Simon Wimpenny: Main reason I went was to see Roger, I don't believe he was advertised on the bill but I was fortunate to know things :)
ELR: How did you end up filming this: it's very difficult to get a camera into a gig... were you there in any official capacity?
SW: As a few people know, I've filmed a few of Roger’s (and other Floyd members’) shows. The negative thing about filming them is it takes the enjoyment out of what you’re seeing, but on the flip side, I’ve always got a lot more enjoyment from being able to show other people what they missed! I remember filming Roger’s show in Oslo, in 2002, I had batteries and tapes down my pants - and microphone leads in my socks! I remember walking into the venue and getting my ticket checked, and just as I passed by the security I felt a battery falling down my trouser leg and out from the bottom of my pants onto the floor! You have to remember this was nearly 20 years ago, the media format of MiniDV had just come out and although the cameras were smaller than previous formats they were still quite bulky and cumbersome! I have a few stories of my filming escapades for sure!
ELR: Were you surprised your footage was in The Later Years box set? Fans were surprised some latter years material didn't make it on there - like the Live 8 footage, so did you know your Barbican footage would be there?
SW: I wasn't aware the footage was on there until my filming partner (Kees) sent me a message and a screencap of the box set blurb. Kees and I signed a contract with Paul Loasby in which it was said that if any of our footage was used then we would get full written credit. Both Kees and I hung onto the footage after filming it; it's always nice to have some things that others don't have - not for a selfish reason but for the reason of trading things with other people. There's all sorts of footage out there that may never see the light of day unless you have something that the other person wants!
ELR: You recorded this with Kees Nijpel (who you’ve mentioned a few times) - many fans know you for your blog 'Where ya been, where you going?' but may not be familiar with Kees. Can you tell us about Kees?
SW: I think Kees and I met on the In The Flesh 2002 tour in Europe somewhere or maybe it was the 2006 Dark Side shows, I've lost track these days: all the shows and tours blend into one long trip! But he (as I do, or did) had a keen interest in filming shows and had just upgraded to the very first 1080i consumer HD camcorder! After seeing the quality of his recording I immediately upgraded my equipment and went out and bought the same Sony camera. A Sony HDR -HC1E, I think it was; Kees had a fantastic stereo microphone setup made especially for the camera and got some amazing audio with it! We filmed a few two and three-camera shows (with Kees's friend, Henk), one particular one was the Dark Side show in Cork, Ireland. Kees was on the floor right in front of the band and I was all the way at the back, in the seats; it was a very unique show for several reasons: it was held in a circus tent that had been erected over a parking lot and held about 5,000 people, Nick Mason joined Roger and played drums on several tracks, the band blew the electric fuses and had to stop the show for 30 minutes or so - and Kees, after getting caught a couple of times filming, was ejected from the venue before the end of the show! This is why the last few tracks of the bootleg DVD of the show are recorded on only a single camera.
ELR: How did you guys share the work while recording the Barbican gig?
SW: He was on the floor and I was in the wings! Once the show was filmed, I edited it all together for ourselves to watch.
ELR: Were you surprised by anything at the Barbican gig?
SW: Not really.
ELR: Was it difficult recording this, in any logistical way?
SW: Nope, just the same as any other show, you need eyes in the back of your head, you need to black out all the red and blinking lights, dim the screen as much as you can, and have a steady hand.
ELR: Did you think there was a chance that Roger Waters would perform with David Gilmour, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason that day?
SW: I was hoping it would happen, but in the back of my mind guessed it probably wouldn't.
ELR: There's a bit of a debate out there - and I'm sure you've been asked for perspective before: was Live 8 the last Pink Floyd reunion or was Barbican the last Pink Floyd reunion?
SW: I would say Live 8 was the last reunion.
ELR: Any idea why Waters skipped the Bike performance?
SW: Roger had only just started dating his then girlfriend, Laurie, and she was flying into Heathrow from New York that evening. I believe Gilmour mentions something in an interview about Roger having to rush off to the airport - and seemed a little miffed about it… but it wasn't for a flight for himself or anything like that… it was to pick up Laurie; that's the only, single reason that the four of them didn't get back on the stage for one last time.
ELR: What do you think about The Later Years box set?
SW: Honestly, haven't seen it, don't own it, and haven't got much interest in it!
ELR: You have documented Roger Waters' solo work in great detail: what did you think of Waters' last album and tour and do you feel the change in band members had an impact on sound and style? How do you see his work moving forward based on that?
SW: I like the last studio album a lot; not keen on the production of it but the music and the songs are great, I still listen to it. As for the tour, I saw a few shows, eight in total, I think; the politics of it didn't bother me one bit, I was there for the music, friends, and the production. I thought the show itself was great, I was disappointed there wasn't more solo material, especially nothing from Amused to Death or Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking but I loved the new tracks live and was fortunate to see the shows in Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico, where he played Two Suns and did the Wait for Her suite of songs from the latest album. I'm not a big fan at all of the new band. I loved the old band. I don't think there has ever been a better band than the old guys touring with Waters with the exception of adding Andy Fairweather Low back onstage with them. I'm hoping there will be more solo material in the new shows [at the time of this interview Waters had not yet postponed his 2020 world tour] but I also realize that it's the Floyd classics that get the "bums on seats" and sell the tickets. I've heard Another Brick, Money, Time, Set the Controls way too many times, he's been playing the same songs since the 1999 tour! Of course I'm expecting it to be way more political, which, again, doesn't bother me. I have fun picking out the people who are around us that are gonna explode when certain things come on the giant screens! For me the shows are the icing on the cake for traveling and meeting friends all over the world.
ELR: You traveled quite a bit during The Wall Live tour and met with a lot of friends, and made a lot of new friends - literally all over the world. Have you stayed in touch with many of them? Did they follow Waters' last tour as amply? What do you miss most from the The Wall Live tour days?
SW: I've stayed in touch with 99% of the people whom I've met over the years. I got married in 2013 and our wedding was attended by people from all over the world, we had over 150 guests with people coming from Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Canada, Switzerland, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, the UK, and many other countries; most of the people I've met while being on tour and some I first met at Waters’ shows in the US in 1999 and 2000! A lot of friends came from Europe for the Us + Them tour, people who I hadn't seen since our wedding: meeting back up with them is just like you saw them yesterday; you start off the conversation where you finished off several years before not even noticing how long its been since you saw them! The thing I miss from the Wall days is the show! I could watch that show every night for the rest of my life! It was a very special time in my life, lots of changes with things ending and starting. I listen to that album in a whole new way than I listened to it before the shows... even hearing a Wall track on the radio I can't help but carry out the small actions that Roger would do during the show - like hitting the wall to break it open during Comfy Numb, ducking down under the wall projections during The Trial and the actions he did during Run Like Hell. I saw the Wall show live 143 times and every time I saw it I heard or saw something new, it was THE best tour for me.
ELR: You haven't blogged since 2017... what have you been up to and what other bands have you been seeing live these last couple of years?
SW: I've never been happier in my life than I have been during the past 10 years, I have an amazing wife and family, a beautiful home, we have our health and we are fortunate that we both love similar things. We both like to travel - and especially if music is involved. We've just returned from New York state and California, seeing seven shows from a heavy metal guitarist that I was a fan of when I was a teenager and we have plans to see Keane in Washington DC later this month, Alanis Morissette later in the year, and 15 or so of Rogers shows all over the US as well as the last three shows (possibly ever!) in Mexico City. [About one week after this interview, international quarantines and social distancing policies took effect and practically all of these tours were cancelled or postponed].
To follow Simon Wimpenny's blog for future updates and a historical account of The Wall Live tour, visit simonwimpenny.blogspot.com. See his Barbican Centre footage from The Madcap's Last Laugh (the Syd Barrett tribute) on The Later Years box set.